I can’t listen to music while I write. That’s not exactly right, really. I can listen to ambient background sort of melodies. Actual head bopping, wiggling in my seat kind of tunes that make me want to sing along–I just can’t do it. It’s distracting, unless I’m in the uber zone and my neurology has its own thing going.
However, I do find that I require listening to certain kinds of music to write certain characters. In magickal traditions ritual is the means of altering one’s atmosphere and innerscape to focus on performing a specific task. This is called creating sacred space, opening s circle, or calling in the directions, depending on your tradition. I find it’s the same with writing. Where ritual is the joining of symbol with logic, it’s the fusion of left and right brain. For me, listening to specific music is a ritual that helps me hear characters’ voices better and stay in touch with their emotions longer by listening to certain songs in my non-writing life.
For instance, I just finished a huge fiction project featuring a male character that was supported by loads of Killers, Ferdinand, and a decent dose of Mumford. I didn’t listen to those tunes while writing, but that stage of my life around writing that project featured loads of those guys. Another shorter project featured a very unconventional guy who was floated by lots of Manson and Alice in Chains. One of my female leads carried lots of Tori Amos and Fiona Apple around with her.
It seems that when I get certain music associated with specific characters, I start finding the themes that character is working out in everything around me. Again, that’s part of ritual. Ritual is partly paying reverence to the task at hand, but it’s also learning to train the brain to make the switch out of regular mode into whatever the desired mode is. The more practiced the ritualist, the easier it becomes to switch modes. The cues used to shift into ritual become less prominent. At the same time the need for those cues becomes less while the ability to recognize them in our regular everyday space becomes more attuned. In short, I start to find the Universal connection of my character, which makes the development smoother, more relatable, more realistic. Even when I’m not intending to write about anything magickal or fantastical, it’s still part of the process.